Bernie Sanders kicked off his presidential campaign on Saturday, miles from the rent-controlled apartment where he grew up in Brooklyn, and forcefully made the case that he is nothing like fellow New Yorker Donald Trump, proclaiming himself the Democrat best prepared to beat the incumbent in 2020.
“My experience as a child, living in a family that struggled economically, powerfully influenced my life and my values. I know where I came from,” Mr. Sanders boomed in his unmistakable Brooklyn accent. “And that is something I will never forget.”
Mr. Sanders called Mr. Trump “the most dangerous President in modern American history” and said the President wants to “divide us up”. The Vermont Senator positioned himself in opposition to Trump administration’s policies — from immigration to climate change.
Beyond the issues themselves, Mr. Sanders, who grew up in the heavily Jewish neighborhood of Flatbush in a middle-class family, drew a stark contrast between himself and the billionaire in the White House, who hails from Queens. “I did not have a father who gave me millions of dollars to build luxury skyscrapers, casinos and country clubs,” said Mr. Sanders, who has lived in Vermont for decades. Mr. Sanders also said that he “did not come from a family of privilege that prepared me to entertain people on television by telling workers, ‘You’re fired’.”
“I came from a family who knew all too well the frightening power employers can have over everyday workers,” he added. Mr. Sanders enters the race at a moment that bears little resemblance to when he waged his long-shot bid in 2016. Democrats have been mobilised by the election of Mr. Trump and are seeking a standard-bearer who can oust him from office. Many of Mr. Sanders’s populist ideas have been embraced by the mainstream of the Democratic party. The field of Democrats that he joins includes a number of liberal candidates, most notably Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, who share similar sensibilities.
Mr. Sanders’s rally was his first campaign event since announcing a week ago that he would run against Mr. Trump for the White House.
A reggae band played before Mr. Sanders spoke, and he was introduced by a number of supporters, including Nina Turner, the former Ohio State Senator who is a co-chair of Mr. Sanders’s campaign this year, and Shaun King, the writer and civil rights activist.
Mr. King cited Mr. Sanders’s participation in the civil rights movement in the 1960s, when he was a student at the University of Chicago.
As he began his speech, Mr. Sanders himself hinted at how he sees the race, a campaign that runs beyond the battlegrounds. “This is a 50-State campaign,” he said. “We will not concede a single State to Donald Trump.”